If you have worked in accounting for a few years or you’re midway through your career, you may be contemplating furthering your studies.
If you hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting, you can choose between a Master’s in Accounting (MAcc) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an accounting concentration.
Both degrees can elevate your accounting career but choosing the right one depends on the direction you want to go. To help make your decision easier, we explain the differences between MBA and Masters in Accounting and the career prospects for each one.
The difference between a Master’s in Accounting Degree and an MBA
Furthering your accounting studies is a big and costly decision. To decide on the right course of study, you need to understand what each degree offers.
Master’s in Accounting Degree
For many accounting professionals, a Master’s in Accounting is the next logical step. A master’s degree does a deep dive into advanced accounting skills, such as taxation accounting, auditing, forensic accounting, and organizational risk management.
Master’s degrees in accounting take 1-2 years to complete. However, there are some excellent online master's in accounting courses that you can complete in less than a year, depending on how quickly you work through the course.
An MBA is a popular and desirable business qualification. It’s a more generalist degree designed to equip students with an understanding of a business's overall functioning.
MBA programs take 1-2 years and provide you with a broad range of business skills across various disciplines. These include marketing, management, finance, economics, operations, and organizational leadership. Choosing an MBA with a concentration in accounting will include auditing principles, taxation, and financial accounting.
In short, an MBA offers a breadth of knowledge, while a MAcc provides a depth of knowledge. Both can be a stepping stone towards specialist roles or higher-level positions.
What to consider when deciding between the two
Deciding which course of study to take comes down to your preferred career path. Do you aspire to reach higher ranks in the field of accounting, or do you want to spread your wings to other areas of business or move into a management role?
If becoming a certified public accountant (CPA) is your goal; a Master’s in Accounting is the right choice. If you’d prefer to move into an executive role that manages accounting processes and interacts with other business departments, the MBA is the better option.
What are the requirements for each degree?
The prerequisite for both an MBA and MAcc is a bachelor’s degree. To qualify for an MBA, you must also have some professional work experience. Some MBA programs require applicants to take an entrance exam.
Enrolling in a Master’s in Accounting degree doesn’t require previous work experience. Still, it does require an undergraduate accounting degree with the following coursework: financial accounting, intermediate accounting I and II, and managerial accounting. Your grade point average (GPA) must be satisfactory, and you will need to pass the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
How much do the courses cost?
Cost and duration of study may be another factor in your decision. Both an MBA and MAcc can be completed within 1-2 years. Online courses are often shorter and cost less.
A full-time Master’s in Accounting course at a top university can cost between $54,000 and $82,000 per year (tuition only). Comparatively, the average cost of an online course is around $25,000.
MBA programs are more expensive. The cost of an MBA can range between $80,000 to nearly $200,000, inclusive of tuition and additional expenses like accommodation and study materials. An online MBA course can bring costs down to $40,000.
What type of jobs do each open doors to?
If flexibility is what you want, the MBA will help open doors to different types of jobs. You could work as an accountant, financial manager, marketing manager, business operations manager, and CEO.
With a Master’s in Accounting, you could fulfill roles such as senior accountant, financial controller, forensic accountant, auditor, and chief financial officer.
If your goal is to become a CPA at an accounting firm or open your own consultancy, the master’s will help you achieve that. To get your CPA license, you must complete 150 credit-hours and take the CPA exam. The master’s degree will prepare you for that.
What can you earn?
The accounting field pays well, even at entry-level. With additional education like an MBA or master’s degree, you’ ’ll be handsomely compensated. The average median salary with a master’s degree in accounting is $75,000 compared to $65,000 with a bachelor’s degree.
Depending on the career path you follow, salaries can be as high as $100,000 per year or more. For example, financial analysts earn an average of $100,990, and financial managers can earn up to $146,000.
Deciding between a master’s in accounting vs. an MBA is easy once you understand what each degree offers. All you need to do is choose the one that best aligns with your career goals.